By Chad Ingram
Published May 11, 2017
A dark wave of déjà vu shot through Minden last Thursday as water levels that had been steadily rising in the Gull River for days reached a critical point.
With swaths of the Riverwalk pathway submerged, the Gull began snaking its way across Invergordon Avenue to conspire with the rising wetland quietly plotting to overtake the boardwalk on the other side of the street.
North of Minden, many of the reservoir lakes of the Trent Severn Waterway sat bloated, their shores already swelled as Parks Canada held water back in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the disastrous flood of 2013.
Then the sky went thick with grey, the kind of grey that announces it’s not only going to rain, but it’s going to rain for days.
A familiar scenario. A perfect storm. A calamity in the making.
Friday witnessed the closure of Invergordon, Anson, Orde, McKnight and other arteries close to the river and, as water continued to pelt from the sky onto saturated ground, it was unsurprising on Saturday when Minden Hills township declared a state of emergency.
A state of emergency – which will allow the municipality access to provincial resources – was similarly declared in 2013. Thankfully, changes to Ontario’s disaster relief legislation mean no community fundraising will be required this time around.
While an automatic reaction may be the pointing of proverbial fingers at Parks Canada, its staff does its best with a complex system that funnels water from nearly 30 lakes through the narrow, shallow canal of the Gull River as it passes through the heart of Minden. There is no other exit.
However, that is not to suggest that things couldn’t be done better, or that operations should not be continually reviewed, particularly when it comes to storage levels and draw-downs heading into flood season.
Another major flood so quickly on the heels of the one in 2013 has also made it clear that Minden Hills township, in concert with other levels of government, will have to do some serious work along the Gull River where it runs through the village. The once-a-century flood in Minden has always been a myth. They happen much more frequently. With two states of emergency declared in four years, and with levels quite high in the spring of 2016 as well, what has unfolded in Minden during the past week is not the exception to any rule. In fact, it appears to be the new normal.
Changing weather patterns will mean more severe flooding for Minden in the springs to come. Protecting the community will require physical alterations to the Gull River; deepening/widening, higher banks, flood walls, etc.
It’s been done before. The riverbanks as they exist were built up after devastating floods.
It will be complicated and incredibly expensive, requiring millions of dollars.
But it must be done for the safety, and, eventually, survival of the community.